So Everton’s run of Champions League crucial away games didn’t get off to the best of start at White Hart Lane – literally. Tottenham Hotspur’s early goal threatened a bad day and while the eventual 2-2 draw feels disappointing because of the late equaliser, it isn’t a disastrous result, but is harmful to the Toffees’ top four hopes.
In the cold light of day the result might not look so awful. It means Everton have gone unbeaten against a side who have been in and around the Champions League places all season, and who, like so many teams, have deeper pockets than Everton. This result then isn’t where Everton’s Champions League dream dies, if that is what happens.
It’s the failure to beat Norwich in two attempts that will cost Everton, or the inability to beat Swansea at Goodison Park in a game where the Welsh side had no inclination to try and win. Drawing 1-1 with what was then a winless Queens Park Rangers in October was a poor result too – likewise not beating Wigan at the DW Stadium a game earlier, or Newcastle at home in September.
Dropped points against sides who will finish lower in the table than Everton have been the most damaging, more damaging than Gylfi Sigurdsson’s late leveller and with the exception of the goalless draw with Swansea, all have something in common – Everton’s tendency to concede and, more painfully, concede sloppy goals.
Everton have kept five clean sheets all season. Never have they been blown away – only once have David Moyes’ side let in more than two goals in a league game, against Aston Villa, and even then they scored three of their own in reply. But the amount of draws – 13 – points to the problem. Every goal conceded is one more that has to be scored to earn the win, and Everton have only four away wins. Tottenham have nine and the other Champions League contenders seven.
With Nikica Jelavic struggling in front of goal that’s been a real problem. Moyes prefers to play with one striker but some of the Croatian’s performances this season have been more like not having a striker at all. Jelavic always works hard but he’s toiled for much of the campaign.
Marouane Fellaini has been a good goal threat but the Belgian has had a dry spell in front of goal, even before his recent two-game suspension. By December 1 Fellaini had eight goals. He’s got four since, two in one game against Villa. When Fellaini returns, his scoring touch needs to return too.
Victor Anichebe has been a standout player of late but goals haven’t flowed in kind. He’s got seven this season but none in his last five. Kevin Mirallas is the opposite – four in his last seven, but he went from September to February without netting. The likes of Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Darron Gibson have chipped in with precious few goals, too.
A defence that tends to concede and often concede first and a midfield and attack that struggles to find more than one goal is not the make-up of a Champions League team. With the Spurs draw in mind, Everton are going to have to go to Arsenal and win.
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